General Discussions VIII was closed today and a new topic was opened: Spam Again… Again!” This change, even in topic title style, has sparked considerable discussion and I feel I should share my entire thoughts on the topic. Give the history of the topic we’re using, my reasoning behind the change, and my own thoughts on all the feedback I’m getting so it’s all out there once and for all.
General Discussions has, for the past eleven months, been Hogwarts New Zealand’s general/random chatter topic. Where members can go to get to know each other, talk about anything and everything, and just truly enjoy each other’s company. Now, prior to March of 2009 HNZ still had topics that were, in fact, exactly the same as “General Discussions”. These topics, however, had been called “Spam”. This “Spam” topic had first been started by Bellatrix Green with a first post that included “Pee in to the wind!” It was, truly, a topic to do pretty much anything and everything. This topic was started in 2007, my first year on HNZ, and was the first topic in the board to reach 50 pages. It was then deleted and Spam 2 began. This, too, reached a certain number of pages before being deleted. This pattern continued up to Spam 7, with Spam 6 being revived and a Spam 6 part 2 having been begun at one point.
Then the titles for these topics started to get even more creative, with such titles as “§pam for the Ages“, “Spam, Egg, Bacon and SPAM“, and even things as random as “Exploding Penguin“. It simply became a fun tradition on HNZ. Starting ‘spam’ topics once they reached a set number of pages, making a fun name for it, and having the same awesome chats with the same (and new) awesome people. The memories were, and are, all priceless and they really do deserve the mention they receive from members who were around for such events.
However, during Spam Light, I started to notice a trend of true spam; that is to say, a trend of pointless and annoying posts about nothing. Breaking board rules was becoming the normal. I recall going away for a time, coming back, and finding the topic a mess. So, after dealing with said mess I was tired of ‘spam’ (in the true sense) and thusly was tired of general chat topics which opened the doors to ‘spam’. I discussed this with Livvy, who felt similarly, and Spam Light was closed until we decided what to do next.
We decided that the best course of action, however poorly received was to open a topic with a new name, but the same meaning at heart. We felt that “spam”, as a title, was confusing newer members – telling them that it was okay to literally spam the topic named spam. So we opened General Discussions. This topic had firmly laid out rules, and a very obvious threat attached to it: if spam appeared, the topic would be gone for good. We still wanted the atmosphere and the heart of the original ‘spams’, but didn’t want to run the risk of confusing new members. This seemed, to us, a logical alternative.
Immediately the community reacted. Admin were the bad guys who wanted to destroy HNZ and its OOC Community. Of course we did not, but that was how we were received. Members, generally, didn’t see the point of the name change and disapproved of it. They felt that the new topic format had to be entirely formal and serious, and that we had taken away a part of what the experience of HNZ was to them. Others simply viewed this “General Discussions” idea as “Spam with a fancy name” and so General Discussions, the first, by its end, had turned out just as poorly as Spam Light. It was closed for a time, and General Discussions II was opened with even more defined guidelines, a netiquette guide to accompany it, and the hopes of things turning out differently.
They did, very fortunately. There were the odd members who tried to spam the topic, but they were dealt on an individual basis and the topics continued. GD III, GD IV, GD V, GD VI, GD VII and GD VIII – which brought us in to 2010. 2010. The new year. A new decade (some think) and new years always mean new, fresh, starts. New chances. New goals. New everything. So, today, on February the sixth of that new year, and almost a whole year since the original falling out in Spam Light, I decided it was time to give GD VIII its rest and open a new topic. That new topic, I felt, could be brought back to its ‘Spam’ origins, if not just for the nostalgia of old members but also for the enjoyment of new members and maybe even a little bit as an experiment on my end of things, to see if continuing “General Discussions” for eight instalments was wise or necessary. (In addition to this reformatting of the topic title, I also recovered many older Spam/GD topics to be viewed by members of HNZ at their leisure here)
As I stated above, this was met with mixed reviews. Older members seemed to appreciate the change back, the fond memories of their earlier days on the site, the ability to access some of those long lost topics, and hope for newer members of the board to have similar experiences as they did in the series of general chat topics to come. Newer members, however, have seemed to disapprove of the topic title change immensely. Stating they “Miss General Discussions” and other such statements. Of course, both the topic and the people are still precisely the same – but the title has changed and therefore nothing is the same any longer.
In this situation, it is clearly impossible to please both parties – and both options have a positive and a negative. I feel that opening up the older topics for viewing, and giving members another shot at the fun times of being able to start their own general chat topic as one dies, choose their own title, and give the first post of the new (soon to be eight hundred page) topic their own spice, is worth the possible trouble of a few members trying to legitimately spam. Of course, that is the sad truth: with this change of style back, members will be more likely to attempt to spam. With three global moderators (who are all amazing), I felt like that was a manageable consequence/risk, but it definitely is a downside to the change.
I can understand new member’s and their comfort being in “General Discussions” and not anything “Spam” related, however does it make that much of a difference? Need I fight another war and taking all the beatings people wish to give me through their words over a name change once more? Does the name change the type of topic it is? The type of conversations it holds, or the type of people who are in it? I would argue not. The only thing this name change does is offer sentimental value to older users, and allow for more opportunities and involvement of members in the creation of future random chatter-type topics. I didn’t expect this kind of adverse reaction when I created the new topic. Not at all.
So does it change that much? The name? I don’t think so. It changes a bit – but the essence of the topic itself is still the same, is it not?
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Shakespeare got it right, there, I think. But it seems HNZ disagrees.